How Technology Is Influencing America’s Most Niche Climbing Hobby

November 03, 2020
Highpointers Travel Tips

Highpointing is celebrating its 33rd year this April, and since day one, the practice has had a strong bond with technology and gear. As the National Parks website outlines, the earliest highpointers used then-sophisticated tech to map out their points, setting the scene for the future. The creativity of these enthusiasts has unearthed some of the most underrated highpointing gear available, and this requirement for specialist equipment has dovetailed perfectly with the opportunities that modern smart tech has presented.

Smart Apps

App stores are full of survival apps - many sourced from the veteran experience of former special forces operatives. A prime example of this is John “Lofty” Wiseman’s SAS Survival Guide, which has been reproduced in app format while also including the full original text. These apps have given an opportunity for experienced climbers to develop further, as well as providing an easy way into the business for newcomers.

A major focus of these apps is safety, and they offer two benefits: knowledge and tools with which to help adventurers keep others updated on their plans. However, this use of data can be risky. As the internet of things has expanded, the risks to data security are becoming increasingly serious and require extra caution; there were over 3800 data breaches in the first half of 2019 alone. Many of the better apps are inclusive of stringent data protection measures, chiefly concerned with properly protecting financial and personal medical data that can be crucial in a rescue situation. 

Navigation And Communication

Safety is the most important factor when planning any expedition. The ability to navigate effectively or, should the worst happen, to communicate with rescue teams, is key. Satellite phones have long been a staple for adventurers, and as technology advances, they’re becoming more compact and capable than ever. From tiny satellite phones built specifically for maps, to texting and SoS signals, to gadgets which turn your traditional smartphone into a satellite phone, there’s a wide array of options available across the price spectrum to suit every need. Smartphone GPS apps are central to navigation and offer the full functionality of a GPS unit with the added benefit of high definition screens and detailed maps. Of course, the importance of modern day navigation staples such as Google Maps cannot be overstated. These apps provide detailed route planning and are invaluable both on and off the beaten path.

Camping Comfortably

For long expeditions, camping is often required and modern technology has its part to play here too. Recent years have seen a number of intriguing devices aimed at the rugged explorer, which are of particular interest to highpointers. Of course, none of your high-tech devices will be of any use without a charge. This is where the most abundant source of energy we have comes in. Compact, mobile solar panels are widely available at very reasonable prices these days. Small enough to comfortably carry in a rucksack, these are essential to the safety of any long expedition. However, it is important to evaluate your route and ensure that your environment will provide enough sunlight to make it worthwhile. Gas camping stoves are a common sight, but recently, biomass-burning portable stoves capable of using the energy produced to charge mobile devices have become available. These would make a highly versatile addition to any gear set.

While there is a lot to appreciate about the straightforward pursuit of highpointing, technology absolutely has a real niche in the hobby. Modern conveniences and devices present an opportunity, making the activity safer. With readily available GPS, weather forecasting and satellite communication in the palm of your hand, smart tech has revolutionized highpointing.

Photo by Kristjan Kotar on Unsplash